SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM Introduction: Positive Commandments 9-10
In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim adds another dimension to the issue of loshon hora, focusing on additional sins that can be transgressed when loshon hora is spoken about certain types of people.
For instance, if someone were to speak loshon hora about an elderly person, he would be violating the mitzvah “In the presence of the elderly you shall rise [and you shall beautify … see Kiddushin 31b]”(Vayikra 19:32), which teaches us to treat our elders with respect and honor. Certainly, says the Chofetz Chaim, loshon hora demonstrates a lack of respect. If the subject of loshon hora is a Torah scholar one violates the commandment to honor a talmid chacham, and may, in certain circumstances, be guilty of actual heresy. If the victim of loshon hora is a Kohen then the positive commandment “V’Kidashto“(Vayikra 21:8), which teaches us to treat Kohanim with added respect, has also been transgressed.
We know that, often, people act toward those outside their family circle with more respect than they show toward the members of their own family. Many Torah sources stress that the true barometer of a person’s behavior is not how he treats people when the world is watching, but how he treats his family in the privacy of his home. Unfortunately, in some homes, ridicule plays a big part in family interaction. Sometimes, God forbid, a parent is the victim of these barbs, especially when the children are married and their parents are not present to hear their comments. The yetzer hara (evil inclination) has a very effective method for opening the door to this type of loshon hora. He says, “Maybe you can refrain from speaking loshon hora outside the home, but the boundaries of shmiras haloshon (guarding one’s speech) stop at your front door. Within the family, people are close and contact is constant, and shmiras haloshon is all but impossible.”
The Chofetz Chaim teaches that speaking negatively of an older sibling, a step-parent or, God forbid, a father or mother, is not only loshon hora, it is a violation of the commandment “Honor your father and mother” (Shemos 20:12). There is also a curse applied to children who show parents disrespect: “Cursed is he who degrades his father or mother” (Devarim 27:16).
One of the primary reasons Hashem created the family unit was so that it could be a workshop, a place for the neshamah (soul) to develop. The home is where we learn to be less self-centered, where we develop a love of chesed (kindness) towards others. When the laws of shmiras halashon guide the family’s interactions, each neshamah which this “workshop” produces can develop to its full, rich potential.
SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM Introduction: Positive Commandments 11-12
One of the great recent innovations in the computer industry is multi-tasking, meaning that computers now have the ability to run several software programs simultaneously. The Chofetz Chaim tells us that a person also has to run two “programs” through his mind at the same time. One thought process is used to accomplish whatever task we are presently engaged in. The second process is a constant scanning of the first process, to ensure that it is in line with the commandment “be aware of and fear Hashem at all times.” When we are confronted with a choice of acting or not acting, of speaking or not speaking, we should always ask ourselves, “What does Hashem want me to do?”
A person who speaks loshon hora has clearly lost his focus, at least for a few moments, on what Hashem wants of him. He is acting as if Hashem is not present, God forbid. Therefore, he violates the commandment to imbue oneself with fear of Hashem.
The Chofetz Chaim teaches us that when a person speaks loshon hora, he is wasting one of the most precious commodities this world has to offer — time.
There is no limit to the reward for learning Torah. It is by far the most precious mitzvah a person can do. The only excuse a person has for not studying Torah the entire day is that he has other important matters, such as earning a living, to which he must attend. Speaking loshon hora is certainly not something which one should be doing, and so the time spent speaking loshon hora is unjustifiably being lost — a sin of bitul Torah (wasting time that should be dedicated to learning). Furthermore, our Sages, of blessed memory, state, “Just as the mitzvah of Torah study is equal to all the mitzvos of the Torah combined, so too, the sin of loshon hora equals all the sins of the Torah combined” (Yerushalmi, Peah 1:1).
The consequences of this fact are enormous, says the Chofetz Chaim. As an example let us consider the 20–minute wait in some shuls (synagogues) between Minchah and Maariv. Each word of Torah learning is a mitzvah for itself. A person can comfortably speak 150 words a minute. Multiply this by the 20 minutes between Minchah and Maariv, and we have 3,000 spoken words. This means that 3,000 mitzvos can be accomplished in 20 minutes of learning. Unfortunately, the opposite is true with loshon hora. Not only can a person acquire 3,000 sins for speaking 20 minutes of loshon hora, he also would acquire 3,000 sins of bitul Torah. Most tragic of all, he loses the priceless reward of 3,000 precious mitzvos of Torah study which could have been his.
SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM Introduction: Positive Commandments 13-14
When relating the bad points of another person — especially when one becomes swept up in telling a story — it is natural to exaggerate for dramatic effect.
The Chofetz Chaim tells us that even one word of exaggeration constitutes a lie, and when it is spoken in a loshon hora conversation the speaker adds the violation of the commandment “Distance yourself from falsehood” (Shemos 23:7) to his list of transgressions.
The Rambam tells us (Hilchos Dei’os) that a person who exaggerates someone’s bad points is guilty of motzi shem ra, slander, a more severe form of loshon hora.
chanoch adds: Motzi Shem Ra is telling a level of a small lie but still a lie. This is usually exaggeration.
By requiring every one of us to observe these laws, Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, shows us the power of one word. In truth, we see this ourselves in everyday situations. For instance, if someone is asked for information regarding a shidduch (marriage match), there is a world of a difference between saying, “He is a quiet boy,” and saying, “He is a very quiet boy.” With that one word, a significantly different image of the boy is conveyed.
By saying that he is a quiet boy, the speaker characterizes the boy as thoughtful and reflective. But the description “very quiet” gives rise to the possibility that he is perhaps reclusive or dull. That one word, which very possibly is inaccurate, might be cause for this suggested shidduch to be rejected. This is what one word can do.
The Chofetz Chaim lists one final positive commandment that is transgressed when speaking loshon hora: “And you shall walk in His [Hashem’s] ways” (Devarim 28:9). Hashem’s kindness is boundless; He is deeply pained when we speak badly of Jews, even those who are clearly wrong. Hashem’s way is to wait for people to repent. When we observe the actions of our fellow man, decide that he is guilty, and even go so far as to share our opinion with others, then we have drifted far from the ways of Hashem.
That is why people who speak loshon hora are included among those who are not “permitted to greet the Shechinah” (Sotah 42a). By indicting others through words of loshon hora we have traveled a distance from Hashem that is too far to bridge.
SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM Introduction: Curses
This segment concludes the Chofetz Chaim’s introduction to his sefer. Its overriding message is that this seemingly innocuous sin called loshon hora is so destructive to our service of Hashem that it is impossible to ignore its repercussions. The Chofetz Chaim concludes with his closing argument — a section on curses. Not only does a person stunt his spiritual growth and amass countless sins for himself by speaking loshon hora; he actually makes himself the object of two curses written in the Torah.
The first is “Cursed is one who strikes his fellow in secret” (Devarim 27:24). As Rashi explains, the speaker of loshon hora, who whispers derogatory information about others in private, is the subject of this verse.
If a commandment has become irrelevant to a person so that he totally ignores it, then he is included in the curse “Cursed is he who does not uphold the words of this Torah to do them” (Devarim 27:26), and he is classified as a “rebel with regard to one sin.” When a person speaks loshon hora freely and without restraint, it is as if he is saying, “Hashem, You gave me many important things to do — Shabbos, kashrus, Torah study — but shmiras haloshon just does not fit into my particular lifestyle.” Regarding such an attitude, the Chofetz Chaim states,”his sin is too great to be borne” (c.f. Bereishis 4:13) — an expression used by Scripture and our Sages for very severe sins.
The Chofetz Chaim concludes: “And I ask you, my dear reader, to read and reread this Introduction, because more than anything else, it will help you succeed with shmiras haloshon.”
SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Laws of Loshon Hora 1:1-2
In the first chapter of Sefer Chofetz Chaim, some common myths concerning loshon hora are shattered.
The Chofetz Chaim begins by correcting the single biggest misconception, a point so crucial that it is expressed in the chapter’s very first words: It is forbidden to relate derogatory information about a person even if the information is true. The Chofetz Chaim continues: Our Sages, of blessed memory, define this activity as loshon hora. The recounting of true derogatory information about another is the classic case of loshon hora.
Each of us can recall a conversation in which someone told us loshon hora. If we could probe the mind of the speaker and study his rationale in relating something derogatory about a fellow Jew, we would likely find that he felt justified in repeating it since the information was true. If we were to suggest to the speaker that this is loshon hora, nine times out of ten he would respond, “But it’s true.”
Now, if this derogatory information were about the speaker’s brother, father, son or daughter, he would surely be much more reluctant to share it with us. The justification that “it’s true” would be overshadowed by the natural protective feeling we have for people whom we love.
The Chofetz Chaim begins his sefer by telling us, “It does not matter if it is true.” Hashem wants us to be as protective of every Jew’s reputation as if he or she were our own brother or sister. Just as one would be loathe to spread negative information about one’s sister or brother, regardless of the fact that the information is true, so too, should we be loathe to spread negative information about any Jew.
Once again, the Chofetz Chaim cites the negative commandment “You shall not go as a peddler of gossip among your people” (Vayikra 19:16), for this is the primary verse which prohibits speaking loshon hora.
The Chofetz Chaim paints the picture of a peddler with a sack slung over his shoulder. But instead of fruit or clothing, this sack contains negative information. The speaker of loshon hora is a peddler, who travels from person to person distributing his sinful wares. Though we don’t see ourselves as “peddlers,” almost any conversation containing loshon hora is one in which one person “delivers” to another, negative information that he is carrying within his mind.
One of the main reasons why loshon hora is so despicable in the eyes of Hashem is because filling one’s mind with negative information and peddling it to others is a lowly act, and Hashem does not want Jews to act in a lowly way.
© 2021 www.yeshshem.com All rights reserved. Site development by Eltitude